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May 31, 2010 Mid-Century Modern

Post’s Kennicott Takes a New Look at Mies’s MLK Library

MLK Library in DC by Mies van der Rohe

The black I-beams of Mies's MLK library in D.C.

If you were away for the weekend, check out Phillip Kennicott’s piece re-examaning  Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and its new neighbor that will rise on the adjacent site of the former First Congregational United Church of Christ.

“All this temporarily open space also serves to reveal a building that has long been hidden in plain sight: the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the 1972 black box designed by the firm of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,” Kennicott writes. “The building, finished after the death of the great modernist architect, has always been problematic, an austere and alien presence in a city temperamentally allergic to anything that isn’t classical, brick or bland. For years it has been in desperate need of renovation. But for now, seen across the open pit, without the distraction of the church that used to sit next to it, the library looks shockingly good. The construction site offers a temporary gift, a chance to see the library in its full glory, with enough perspective and distance to contemplate its stern geometrical form. Suddenly this glass-and-metal box feels new and powerful, as if all it needed was a little air, a little breathing room.”

It’s good to see the much derided mid-century modern building get a fresh look amid the surrounding redevelopment of the city.

Martin Luther King library by Mies van der Rohe.

The library was designated a historic landmark in 2007.